Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988

Tony Riboni stationed himself in Placitas on Election Day supporting his friend James Dominguez and fellow Democrat John Wallace. He ended up even as Dominguez won a seat on the Sandoval County Commission while Wallace failed to dislodge incumbent state Rep. James Smith.
Photo credit: —Bill Diven

Two newcomers claim election victories

—Signpost Staff

With the dust settling from the 2014 election season, residents of Sandoval County will see mostly familiar faces in public offices.

Two exceptions are the open District 1 County Commission seat, where Democrat James Dominguez of Bernalillo outpolled Republican Gary Miles of Placitas 4,932 to 3,553, and the Probate Court where Republican Lawrence McClain defeated incumbent Democrat Charles Aguilar 18,887 to 17,300. Dominguez succeeds Commissioner Orlando Lucero, D-Bernalillo, who was term-limited after his second four-year term.

About 39,000 people voted, and ballot counts remain unofficial until certified by the State Canvassing Board, which was scheduled to meet on November 25.

Elsewhere, voters re-elected Sheriff Doug Wood, Assessor Tom Garcia, District 3 Commissioner Don Chapman, and state Rep. James Smith of Sandia Park, all Republicans. Wood defeated Jesse James Casaus 53.4 percent to 46.6 percent, Garcia beat Antonio Montoya 51.4 percent-48.6 percent, Chapman ran unopposed, and Smith won nearly sixty percent of the vote in defeating John Wallace of Placitas.

Wallace fared better in the Sandoval County portion of the three-county district trailing by about 3.5 percentage points. On the Santa Fe County side of the district the margin was more than 42 percentage points while in Bernalillo County it was 23 percentage points.

Democrats Richard Zanotti, Bill Mast, and incumbent Delilah Montaño-Baca swept the Magistrate Court judgeships without opposition, and Salvador Reyes will return to his nonpartisan seat on the Eastern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority.

Republican candidates took all three open District Court judgeships in the 13th Judicial District, including the new seat that pitted Republican Cheryl Johnston of Corrales against Chris Perez of Bernalillo. In the yes-no retention elections, voters returned Judges George Eichwald, Louis McDonald, and John Davis to the bench. The district includes courts in Sandoval, Cibola, and Valencia counties.

Election day means drama in Sandoval County

—Signpost Staff

Despite a rush to court by Republicans on November 4, Sandoval County is claiming an almost problem-free Election Day. That’s in sharp contrast to 2012, when disaster in the form of too-few voting centers and ballot printers in Rio Rancho led to chaos, hours-long waits, and a Republican lawsuit still working its way through the federal court system.

“The election went about as smooth as we’ve had an election,” Bureau of Elections Director Eddie Gutierrez told county commissioners before they certified vote totals on November 14. Everyone did a “wonderful” job, given the hiring of five hundred people for the election and the volume of work involved, he added.

“I thought things went well this time,” said Commissioner Don Chapman, a Rio Rancho Republican re-elected on November 4.

Which is not to say there were no glitches at Precinct 50, which straddles State Route 528 and includes voters from both Rio Rancho and Bernalillo. While it was voting as usual at the polling place in Bernalillo, trouble brewed at the voting convenience centers in Rio Rancho, where ballot printers programmed by a state vendor failed to recognize the precinct as part of the city.

Voting convenience centers—17 in Rio Rancho and two in Corrales—allowed those voters to vote anywhere regardless of their home precincts. Rather than risk tinkering with the main computer database during voting, vendor technicians manually adjusted ballot printers at all 19 convenience centers starting with the two closest to Precinct 50.

By the time the problem was fixed, about 11:00 a.m., 19 Rio Rancho voters had been unable to vote but were not offered provisional ballots, as they should have been. Poll workers took their names and phone numbers and were able to contact the 17 who came back and voted. The other two may or may not have voted later at the convenience centers, Gutierrez said.

During the county canvassing meeting, Don Anderson of Automated Election Services, the state vendor, apologized for the programming error.

Meanwhile, lawyers representing the Republican Party, Gov. Susana Martinez’s campaign, and the Secretary of State’s office filed an emergency motion initially alleging five hundred voters had been disenfranchised. Three voters testified in the afternoon hearing, one saying she waited more than three hours without voting.

However, state District Judge George Eichwald ruled there was no longer a problem and that anyone unable to vote should be given a provisional ballot, which can be confirmed later.

“It’s just too bad some people jumped the gun and decided to go to court,” County Clerk Eileen Garbagni told the Signpost.

Sen. Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, as he had during the federal lawsuit, again called for the resignation of Garbagni, a Democrat, and Gutierrez. Brandt’s district includes Precinct 50.

Garbagni was not the clerk during the 2012 debacle, but has appealed the federal court decision resulting from the Republican’s lawsuit. That decision governed conduct of the 2014 election but raised other issues Garbagni said warrant the appeal.

An issue at Precinct 15 in Jemez Pueblo involved a printer briefly producing light ballots, but that was fixed on site, County Attorney Patrick Trujillo said.

Garbagni said for the 2016 election she wants to add a voting convenience center in Bernalillo and possibly Placitas.

Voters reject county’s priciest bond issues

—Signpost Staff

It’s back to the drawing board for Sandoval County after voters shot down $15 million dollars in bond issues intended to expand District Court facilities and move public-safety agencies into their own building.

Voters in the November 4 general election did okay borrowing two million dollars to upgrade emergency communications and $3.25 million dollars for library books and services. The Eastern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority District also won approval for its $2.2 million dollar bond issue.

One of the rejected bond issues would have raised seven million dollars to expand the Sandoval County Judicial Complex, which had a fourth judgeship added this year by the Legislature. The other would have borrowed eight million dollars to move the sheriff’s office out of the complex and consolidate it, and put the fire department and emergency medical services in a new building.

The courts question failed, 19,714 to 15,338, roughly 56 to 44 percent, according to unofficial returns. The overwhelming “no” vote on the public-safety issue came in at nearly a three-to-one margin, 25,407 to 9,387.

County officials had estimated the impact on property taxes of all four bond issues at $24 dollars a year per one hundred thousand dollars of assessed valuation during the twenty-year payoff. The cost for the two approved issues is placed at just over six dollars per one hundred thousand dollars of valuation.

The public safety building is still needed, County Manager Phil Rios told the Signpost, and the county may now approach the Legislature for help with a smaller facility just for the fire department. Funding a court expansion is another matter since counties and not the state are responsible for court facilities, he added.

The county’s wish list for the upcoming legislative session includes two million dollars for the first phase of a new public safety facility.

County voters approved funding the current court building in 2000, and it opened in 2005. Since then, the county’s population and judges’ caseloads have grown dramatically.

Meanwhile, voters statewide endorsed three bond issues, one a $17 million dollar package containing $1.85 million dollars for a Sandoval County senior center to be built in Bernalillo. Also included is money for work at senior centers countywide and specific upgrades at centers in Cuba, Rio Rancho, the Torreón Chapter of the Navajo Nation, and Cochiti, Jemez, San Felipe, and Santo Domingo pueblos.

The other state bond issues borrow $11 million dollars to be spent on libraries and $141 million dollars for projects at colleges and special and tribal schools

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